On branding

With KDE’s 4.5 release day coming up, the KDE Promotion Team has been reviewing our brand structure that we first applied when Software Compilation 4.4 came out. There was lively discussion at Akademy, review of the things that have worked well and those that have not worked so well and discussion of how to make sure we use our brands consistently and in the ways that make sense for who we are and what we are doing:

  • KDE is us, the people who develop, translate, beautify, explain and promote the software
  • KDE’s products include the workspaces Plasma Desktop and Plasma Netbook, many KDE applications and the KDE Platform on which applications can be built
  • KDE Software Compilation is not a brand, but just a name for the stuff that we release simultaneously. It’s unlikely that anyone uses the whole software compilation and probably no one only uses the software compilation – even most distros don’t install the whole thing by default and all include other software too (I don’t use the software compilation, but I do use KDE software)

Brands take time to grow, to become valuable and can take even longer to change. The oft-quoted example we use as a bit of an analog for the KDE brand repositioning is Mozilla/Mozilla Suite/Firefox. In the Mozilla example, the organisation and product effectively shared a name, ‘Mozilla’ (everyone I knew called the app ‘Mozilla’ rather than ‘Mozilla Suite’) and successfully repositioned this to be an organisation ‘Mozilla’ that produces the app ‘Firefox’, among others. Of course, it was slightly easier for them as Firefox was more or less a new product. You can see the effects of this in KDE software too in the way that ‘Plasma Netbook’ has apparently gained more traction than ‘Plasma Desktop’ – a Google search for “Plasma Netbook” produces almost three times as many results as “Plasma Desktop” – because there isn’t an established alternative name for Plasma Netbook.

However, while Mozilla is interesting, another example that perhaps has more relevance (since it relates essentially to repositioning an existing product) is the rebranding of the old SUSE as ‘openSUSE’. I’ve had the feeling that the ‘openSUSE’ guys are making this stick now and Google Trends (yes, I know: this is not a reliable metric of anything except Google searches) seems to indicate that ‘openSUSE’ is now reaching at least parity with ‘SUSE’. If you consider that Novell still uses ‘SUSE’ brands for its enterprise offerings then you might conclude that ‘openSUSE’ has now succeeded in becoming the accepted as well as the correct name for Novell’s community distribution.

SUSE v openSUSE (from Google Trends)

The other thing to note is that these things take time. It has taken ‘openSUSE’ about 5 years to get to a point of apparent parity with ‘SUSE’. I think we all realised at the promo meeting where the brands were finally agreed that this would be a long process of several years. Another issue is that ‘openSUSE’ still seems to lag in news. This may be partly due to news reporting of the corporate ‘SUSE’ products but also due to the conservatism of news sites: they tend not to lead their readers but rather to follow and so are reluctant to adopt new terms until their readers accept them. However, new users learn how to call things partly by reading respected news sites, but also from other authoritative sources such as their package distributors and, well, those of you who blog on Planet KDE 🙂 We are working with distros so that they can use the correct brands to describe KDE software that they distribute (Troy ran a session at Akademy) and Aaron is trying very hard to be good too. How about you?

It will take time, work and determination. Personally, if the brand structure has stuck by the time KDE starts releasing software based on Platform 5 – by which I mean the news sites talk about Plasma Desktop 5.0 and the like – then I’ll be one happy gearhead.

8 Responses to “On branding”

  • Aaron Seigo says:

    very nice summary, thanks for writing it! 🙂

    we need to do some updates on community.kde.org in the branding areas (i’ve had that page open in my browser for the last 2 weeks so i don’t forget…).

    one other small and perhaps useful bit of info is that “SC” is a release engineering artifact and that we will continue to use it in those areas (e.g. when we are discussing releases and what not), even though it isn’t a brand. it’s like discussing svn tagging 🙂

    ah, and one other bit that someone ought to blog about at some point is using the phrase “KDE Release Day” for the day on which we release, among other things, the software compilation.

  • g says:

    I don’t think that “KDE Release Day” is a good name: it gives the impression that “KDE” is released on that day (it is the same as speaking about a “Mozilla Release Day” or “Novell Release Day”). “KDE SC Release Day” or “KDE Software Release Day” would be better, even if you release more than just the SC on that day.

  • Suvi says:

    Just give that platform a nice name, too.
    “KDE Development Platform”, uh…
    I don’t want to develop, I want to use that sucker of a program. If it will pull in something which has “Development” in its name, I know some people who will just think “bloat” and “unsexy” and “in progress”. And choose another program which looks less heavy and more slick during install.
    “Software Development Kit” and “Development Platform”, who can tell the difference?

  • Jaroslav Reznik says:

    If we really want people to use our new branding, we have to start from the top – first we have to start it completely and without exceptions, we need real official announcement spread across magazines/net etc. It should be done together in sync with distributions (for Fedora 14 it’s quite late for example) and then it can go to users. I remember the times, when SuSE was in stransition to openSUSE (and it was much more easier one – just showing we are the open one). Also I would avoid SC even for the whole release and as Troy said – decouple the whole stack to the parts (and release important apps standalone).

    • Stu says:

      Yes, I agree with all of that.

      Marketing wise, SC is not a term that we’ll be using – more on that shortly.

  • Astreek says:

    In the graph, openSUSE was all the time almost the same, bug Suse went all the way down, so SUSE+openSUSE get down. Guess which distro grew?

    • Stu says:

      As I understand it (Google are a bit cagey about how exactly the scales work) it is somehow normalised to total search traffic. So a few things could be happening – new distros diluting the results (was your point ‘Ubuntu’?) or even just a change in Google users. Lets imagine that since 2005 more non-techy people have started using the internet and Google. In that case you might expect all Linux or even computer related searches to have decreased as a relative proportion. ‘Microsoft’ and ‘Windows’ have also seen a decline, albeit less dramatic.

  • Astreek says:

    ah, it is not “bug Suse” I mean “but Suse”